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Early Audio Recordings of Street Organs
By Erik York

Hello All,  Roger Wiegand's post of "Pedro the Hand Organ Man" on
Edison Cylinder was unusual and quite interesting to me.  I have never
heard until now such a gradual fade-out effect quite like this one in
any other cylinder.  Besides the sounds effects, even the monkey organ
sounds as if it is fading into the distance.

From a technical standpoint, how did they achieve this over 100 years
ago?  I very much doubt the scene was recorded outdoors, because the
audio is quite clear and doesn't contain extraneous background or crowd
noise.  Now, today in the digital age, a fade-out is as simple as
applying a filter effect over an audio track.

From the amount of archived recordings these street scenes sold well.
There is another interesting "street scene" recording of a street piano
medley located at the tinfoil.com cylinder recordings web site on the
real audio format:  http://www.tinfoil.com/cm-9701.htm 

There is some controversy over this recording whether there were
several stationed pianos queued to play with single tunes or a single
piano with multiple tunes.  To my untrained ear the cylinder sounds
like it could be a very forcefully played (and out of tune) player
piano performing a single roll.  What would classify an instrument as
"street piano"?  Would this at the time be considered a barrel piano
or could it be something else entirely?

In the recent recordings I have heard of barrel pianos, the instruments
sound far less precise tonally and mechanically than the above cylinder
recording.  If the street piano recording is indeed of a player piano
then who produced the roll?  Many unsolved mysteries to this one which
may likely never be answered.

Lastly, can someone point me to some good literature (preferably
on-line) on what types of mechanical instruments were used historically
in street performances?

Regards,
Erik York
Newberg, Oregon


(Message sent Mon 30 Mar 2009, 09:45:25 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Audio, Early, Organs, Recordings, Street

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